Working from home has its advantages and disadvantages. Some people like not having to leave the house, put on a suit, and drive back-and-forth. Others go stir-crazy sitting at home in their pajamas all day. One obvious benefit—especially since the COVID-19 pandemic forced many of us into lockdown—is the ability to keep working.
Some people needed and need the freedom of remote work, even before the pandemic, including parents, caregivers, and those that are recovering from illness, injury, or those seeing a mental health, drug, or alcohol therapist. Not only is there less commuting, but they allow for more flexible schedules.
One profession that has always offered at-home opportunities is the writer. With home computers, portable laptops, printers, email, and online self-publishing platforms, there’s little need for writers, freelance or in-house, to go into an office.
It makes a difference to some employers, especially for in-house or staff writers and some contract writers (temps, essentially). They like to keep an eye on their employees. Maybe that’s why most articles on the benefits of in-house vs. freelance writers are geared towards the company doing the hiring, not how or if the writer benefits.
In-house or freelance?
First, you have to decide what type of writer you want to be: In-house or staff writers are full-time writers employed by a company. Freelance writers are piece-workers. They usually accept a single assignment from an employer at a time.
Here are some more distinctions:
An in-house writer may not have the same variety of writing assignments as a freelancer. A staff writer’s subject matter is more niche, more focused. In-house writers may find that they are writing exclusively for their employer on a limited number of topics.
Freelancers write for many clients on many topics or put in time at writing mills, producing a wide range of content for a diverse group of clients.
If you feel like you would get bored writing about the same things day after day, freelancing and working for writing mills may suit you.
Freelancers can usually write as slowly or as quickly as they like. They can even write unsolicited articles for publication wherever they can get the best price, especially if they are an acknowledged ex[pert in their field. In-house writers usually have to meet a company-set pace.
In-house writers have regular and probably higher salaries. Freelancers usually receive a set fee (often by the word), no matter how long they take to write their assignments. An in-depth research-driven article receives no more than a personal essay of similar length.
Freelancers also sometimes have to wait on slow-paying employers. They usually do not get paid in advance (the employer wants to make sure the content is good) and they are reluctant to demand immediate payment because they want to receive future assignments.
In-house writers get a paycheck, no haggling necessary. If a regular paycheck is more important, look for a staff position.
Freelancers never receive health benefits, insurance, or bonuses for their work, That’s one of the benefits to employers of using them. Also, no paid time off for illness or vacation
Most in-house writers receive such benefits unless it’s such a small office that no one receives them.
Likewise, freelancers don’t usually get promoted or pay hikes. If they are big enough names that they might attract business to the employer, they might receive a higher word rate or flat fee or a mostly meaningless and probably uncompensated title within the company (usually without a fee). Otherwise, the only promotion or pay hike they receive is by going to a higher-paying, more prestigious client.
In-house writers should have regular chances for raises and professional advancement, depending on the office hierarchy.
When freelancing, it is not uncommon to receive no byline on your work. Many content mills and clients are only interested in hiring freelancers for ghostwriting opportunities: producing and writing content but without getting credit. Sometimes a house name is used for all content, articles, and blogs published online.
In-house writers aren’t guaranteed a byline, either, but they will at least have a spot on the staff list.
Perhaps the biggest distinction between being an in-house writer and a freelancer is the hours. That independence or flexibility is one of the chief attractions of being self-employed.
Freelance content writers typically set their schedules. That allows the flexibility for many— students looking for part-time jobs, mothers who need to stay with their children, people with disabilities, the retired, and the elderly—to generate extra income.
If they are not careful, however, that flexibility can lead to procrastination, distraction—especially if children or other loved ones are around—and taking twice as much time to do a job as is necessary. That can reduce their productivity and income. A babysitter might be a worthwhile investment.
In-house writers usually work nine-to-five, Monday through Friday, but often (not always) are off the clock and free of work until 9 a.m. the next workday.
While working from home as a freelance writer may seem idyllic to many, not everyone is cut out for it. Visitors, family, household chores, and social media, can impede your ability to produce content. When one is paid on a per-word basis, that can cost you dearly.
To be at all productive while working from home, as a content writer or anything else, requires discipline. Interruptions throughout the day can impact the writers’ ability to meet deadlines and affect overall revenue.
Working in-house may be more conducive to productivity, particularly when a supervisor or colleagues work on and keep you focused on common goals. Workplace settings can provide a sense of solidarity and unity, which can improve productivity.
Working in-house offers a sense of camaraderie that is not present for those working from home. Workers who enjoy being part of a team may be better suited to an in-house position. Working among or with others allows the opportunity to engage, brainstorm, and solicit feedback from co-workers.
Freelancers must be self-driven or find a similar community (other freelancers, perhaps) off of which they can bounce ideas.
Regardless of whether you work from home or in-house as a writer, there is a need for a dedicated office space that allows you a place to focus and the ability to be productive.
In-house writers are given a desk or an office, probably a computer, maybe a phone.
At-home writers may need to reconfigure areas of the home to accommodate their privacy during work hours.
Another key difference between freelancing and being an employee is your tax status.
Freelancers are usually given a 1099 form, which means typically no taxes are taken out of your checks. You can arrange to pay quarterly or set aside a percentage of your income towards the future tax bill, or both. (There may be home expenses that qualify as deductions.)
As employees of the company, in-house writers are likely provided benefits that freelancers and self-employed writers simply do not.
One final benefit of freelance writing as opposed to in-house is retirement age.
Many companies (though fewer than there used to be) have mandatory retirement ages, regardless of whether the staff member can still do their job.
The freelancer, however, has a job as long as they can produce content that employers want. Younger freelance writers are similarly protected against personality clashes and arbitrary firings. While an individual assignment might be rejected, the threat of being fired if you are not able to live up to the company’s expectations isn’t always hovering above your head like a punishing ax.
If neither of these two choices sounds like your ideal work situation, there is a third option: contract writing.
Contract writers are a cross between in-house and freelance. They work on a specific project for a specific employer, sometimes in the office, either for a set period of time or until the project is completed. They are something like short-term staff writers, with fewer or no benefits (regular salary, health insurance, retirement account).
The goal of contract writers is to do such a good job that they are remembered for future assignments and recommended to other employers. They might even aspire to be hired for an in-house position in the near or distant future or to become a well-paid and sought-after freelancer who can pick and choose from among assignments.
Freelance writing offers more freedom, but can be lonely. In-house writing offers security and the company of your peers. Neither is the right or wrong answer.
The writing field is in flux. Traditional employers such as newspapers and magazines are disappearing, but new opportunities are being created. The online revolution means people who never had a need for a writer before find they now need one badly. They may have both in-house writers and a stable of freelancers to feed the Internet beast.
Are you more risk-averse or do you believe in taking chances? Do you prefer more structure or prefer the freedom to fail or succeed on your own? The choice depends largely on your temperament.
Author Bio: Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them. If you want to find more articles by Patrick, you can find them on his personal blog or in Sunshine Behavioral Health.